Thursday, April 28, 2011

Nero at Daycare -- 04/28/11

Another fun time for Nero today at doggy daycare.  Check it out:

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

No More Flav's Fried Chicken in Iowa

It was a newbie chain restaurant that seemed like an odd match for it's new home, but it seemed pretty cool at the same time.  Flavor Flav opened a fried chicken restaurant in Clinton, Iowa.  It was called Flav's Fried Chicken.  Clinton's fairly small, but it's not tiny for Iowa. I never quite got the story about why Flav chose Clinton until tonight:
The idea for the venture came after Flav befriended Las Vegas restaurateur Peter Cimino.  Flav cooked Cimino some chicken, and Cimino, duly impressed, had Flav sell his chicken wings at Mama Cimino's Pizza in Las Vegas...

It was Cimino's brother, Clinton restaurateur Nick Cimino, who suggested he and Flav open a fried chicken restaurant in the Iowa city of roughly 26,000 people.  "He said, 'You know what, Flav?... What I want to do, I want to build you your first restaurant.' I'm like, 'Are you serious?' He's like, 'Yo, I’m dead serious, man. I’m going to go home, I'm going to build your first FFC restaurant,'"... Nick Cimino bought a building next to his own restaurant and got it ready for Monday’s opening, the
Clinton Herald reported last week.
And that's how Flav landed in Clinton, Iowa, and began selling chicken.  Ever since hearing about the new restaurant, I've been meaning to check it out.  However, I don't make it to Clinton County very often.

Now it looks like I missed my moment: Flav's Fried Chicken is no more:
A fried chicken restaurant in Iowa founded by Flavor Flav has abruptly closed its doors after the reality TV star and his business partner cut ties and exchanged harsh words. Flav's Fried Chicken in Clinton, Iowa, closed on Sunday, just four months after opening to much fanfare.

Flav told WQAD-TV that he was pulling a license that allowed restaurant manager Nick Cimino to use his name in the restaurant because he "isn't running the business right." Some former employees had complained they were not paid.

Cimino told the station Flav was "a fraud" who was trying to get rich off of his ideas and work.
I'd begun hearing rumors about the employees not getting paid, so it wasn't a surprise when I learned that the restaurant was shutting down.  Then again, I'd also heard a couple rumors that Flavor Flav might be branching out beyond Clinton, though for the life of me I can't remember which Iowa community he was supposed to be branching out into.

All that said, I can see why this particular restaurant never took off.  I found this article on TMZ about the established restaurant next door to the newly opened Flav's Fried Chicken: It's a Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant.  You would think that they would be able to find a better location within a community of 26,000.  But that's just me...

Gay, Gray, and Making Waves

I posted a couple different blog articles earlier this month (one written by Husband Mark and the other written by me) about the local airing of a documentary titled Gen Silent, which explored the unique lives and concerns of various elderly GLBT people.  It was an excellent documentary and was further enhanced by a question-and-answer session immediately following the movie by the film's creator, Stu Maddux.  Gen Silent was brought to Iowa City by the Johnson County Living Community (JCLC) Visibility Action Team, which explores the needs and resources of our local aging GLBTs. 

JCLC Visibility Action Team is pretty young, as organizations go.  It was birthed this past February.  The Daily Iowan published an article about the group a couple days ago.  You can read it here.  Much of the article discusses the Gen Silent movie, but it also talks about efforts that the Visibility Action Team are taking to assemble an evolving list of resources available to local GLBT elderly folks, such as a local lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender social group at the local Senior Center.  I know that members have been reaching out to various local nursing homes and assisted living communities and are in the beginning stages of some form of "same zone" training for those types of facilities.  The DI article even references "some local mobile home parks that elderly lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender residents have informally made into living communities".  I have no idea what trailer parks these are, but I would really like to find out.  I'll have to keep my eye out for that.  And Husband Mark -- who's a member of the Visibility Action Team -- says that they plan to have some sort of presence at Iowa City Pride this year, though nothing is set in stone.

Anyway, all this attention on issues affecting elderly GLBT individuals and couples attracted me to this article on Towleroad today featuring a gay male couple who shared their lives with each other for 55 years.  They were legally married before one passed away.  However, because of federal DOMA, the surviving husband Ron is losing the family home.  This is because Ron does not have access to Tom's Social Security income, nor does he have access to Tom's pension income.  This would be available to him if Ron was Ronita.  It's just another reason why federal DOMA sucks.  Of course, I would love it if all states recognized my legal marriage.  However, it's ridiculous that the government cannot and will not recognize those gay families who live in states where our marriages are legally recognized and will not provide the same federal benefits available to other married couples within these states.  It's not just, it's not right, and it needs to be changed.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

TrekFest 2011 is Officially On!

After weeks of uncertainty, it looks like the Riverside Area Community Club (RACC) has managed to prevent its summer TrekFest celebration from being canceled due to lack of funds.  TrekFest is the annual celebration of Captain James T. Kirk's official future birthplace.  I've written about the question of TrekFest's continued existence here and here and here and here.  Well, now it's official.  TrekFest has been saved!:
Riverside’s Star Trek-themed summer event was in jeopardy for the past month after the Riverside City Council voted not to give $10,000 to the Riverside Area Community Club, which organizes the festival. But organizers announced Thursday night that they’ve secured enough donations to move forward. The weekend-long festival celebrates the city’s billing as the future birthplace of Capt. James T. Kirk. “Due to community support, TrekFest will go on,” said Ken McCracken, president of the Riverside Area Community Club.

Earlier this month, the Mindbridge Foundation — an Eastern Iowa-based nonprofit which organizes science fiction, anime, and gaming projects — approved a $5,000 donation to TrekFest organizers. Iowa River Products in Iowa City and Riverside Casino also made sizable donations to support the event. And more than $1,000 came from smaller donations from locals.

“I’d call it heart-warming, McCracken said. “It’s something the community and residents like to see happen and that’s great.”

Me & my "Kirk Dirt"
It's amazing what a determined group of individuals and businesses can accomplish when pushed to the wall.  Frankly, I didn't think that the group was going to pull off this month long $10,000 fund-raiser.  And it definitely wouldn't have been saved without the cash infusion from either Iowa River Products, Riverside Casino, or Mindbridge Foundation.  And you gotta give RACC their props.  They got the word out and they came up with some creative fundraising efforts, including giving a vial of "Kirk dirt" to individual TrekFest donors who donate $25 or more.  On the other hand, I haven't seen any evidence that their pleas to William Shatner and Rod Roddenberry were at all successful.  It's possible, but I haven't seen it yet.

Either way, TrekFest is saved for yet another year.  Now's the time for the fans of both TrekFest and Star Trek to pull together and make sure that we don't find ourselves in another cash flow pickle again next spring.  We need to support TrekFest and support its vendors.  Let the community of Riverside know that we love TrekFest and that we appreciate their unique contribution to Star Trek history.

Official Certificate of Authenticity for my newly acquired "Kirk Dirt"

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Thoughts on "Rio"

D' and I spent the afternoon watching the latest animated movie, "Rio", at the local theater.  It's the story of a small town Minnesota girl who's coaxed to Brazil with her rare blue macaw, named Blu, in order to mate with the only known female of the species, who we eventually discover is named Jewel.  Smugglers manage to steal the birds and the rest of the movie is spent trying to reunite Blue with his human Linda -- but not until he manages to romance the frigid Jewel, who doesn't respect this fish-out-of-water unable-to-fly pet.  Rio is a colorful movie filled with beautiful art, talented voice actors,and toe-tapping music.

Here are a few of my take-aways:

1. I thought the film did a good job of highlighting the excitement and beauty of Rio de Janeiro, while also addressing some serious social issues without too much of a sledgehammer.  There was the fun and color and excitement of Carnivale and the unity amongst soccer fans and the fun of the tourist industry, but there were also some negatives going on there.  Just looking at the bird smugglers, obviously there are bad guys who don't care about the welfare of the exotic birds that they smuggle out of their country.  They just want the money.  But there are also people in that industry who get involved because they have nothing and sometimes a few bucks makes you make some decisions that you later regret.

2. Later towards the end of the film, there was a very subtle pro-adoption suggestion.  If wasn't overt, but it was there for those receptive to such imagery.  I noticed it and D'Angelo commented on it too.  That was a welcome nugget of surprise.

3. There was a bearish security guard early on in the film named Silvio who stripped into a shiny gold shorts-and-top dance outfit and began dancing to the music of Carnivale.  Unfortunately, his inattentiveness allowed Blu and Jewel to get captured by the smugglers.  I'm sure his image was meant to be a joke, but I gotta tell you.  I thought he was kind of hot.  I'm just sayin'...

4. Rio was preceded by a cartoon short featuring Ice Age's Scrat titled Scrat's Continental Crack-Up.  It showed how little Scrat inadvertently caused the original continental drift, splitting up Pangaea into numerous continents all in the pursuit of a safe place to store his acorns.  It was a very funny and unexpected way to start today's movie.

5. Tracy Morgan was wonderful playing the role of Luiz, a bulldog with a terrible case of the drools.  He had some of the best jokes and his Carnivale dance performance was inspired.

Six Months In, No Problems with Urban Chickens in Cedar Rapids

Several months back, I wrote about efforts to get the Iowa City city council to allow its citizens to register and raise chickens within the city limits.  Then I learned back in September that Cedar Rapids approved its own urban chicken ordinance.  There are a few rules and restrictions that Cedar Rapids chicken owners must follow:
Interested applicants must take a special class to learn how to behave like a responsible, law-abiding backyard chicken owner. Backyard farmers are only allowed to raise hens (no roosters). They must seek written approval from their adjacent neighbors before building their backyard coops. They must adhere to certain property layout requirements. They must keep their hens fenced in at all times. And they need to keep things clean and sanitary.
People, including me, were concerned with noise, nasty smells, awful diseases, and eloping hens.  Six months later, Cedar Rapids reports that those fears have been so far unrealized:
“I’m actually quite surprised,” said (Matt) Widner, the Cedar Rapids building official in charge of issuing permits for homeowners to keep hens. “This has been one of the least active ordinances I’ve ever seen.”

Members of Cedar Rapids Citizens for the Legalization of Urban Chickens — CR-CLUC — worked for at least a year before the City Council passed an ordinance last summer to allow up to six hens per household... The ordinance is up for review in October.

“I don’t foresee this running into any issues,” Widner said. “I consider it a successful program.”
Reading through that Gazette article, it sounds like a very successful program indeed.  Since the urban chicken ordinance was approved, 18 households have received permits.  There have been no odor complaints.  One abandoned chicken was discovered in the city and placed with an owner by animal control.  There were a handful of noise complaints due to rooster crows, which aren't legal under the ordinance.  All in all, there have been six complaints.

It was noted that roughly 75 families have attended recent chicken classes and we are heading into spring, so it's likely that those 18 urban chicken farmers might be joined soon by several dozen friends and I guess that makes sense given that we're now experiencing spring and my guess is that it's much easier to launch an urban chicken coop when it's warm and green as opposed to when it's cold and snowy.  And more urban chicken farmers will likely lead to more opportunities for complaints.  But so far things seem to be looking good for Iowa's urban chicken advocates.  It would not surprise me if Cedar Rapids' success leads to renewed efforts this year or next by Iowa City urban chicken fans.

Friday, April 22, 2011

By the Numbers

4 -- The number of Iowa Supreme Court justices who will be impeached if a core group of Republican House legislators have their way.  The quintet filed resolutions to seek the four justices' impeachment over their April 2009 unanimous decision affirming a lower court decision that struck down the state's DOMA law and allowed gay and lesbian couples to obtain marriage licenses.  They argue that the Supreme Court overstepped its authority and made a decision that could/should only be made by the state legislature.  I'm not quite sure how that jives with other assertions that only the popular vote of Iowa's voters can authorize marriage equality, but that's a thought for another day.  Unfortunately for the pro-impeachment folks, nobody in authority actually wants this to happen:
House Speaker Kraig Paulsen said Friday he would oppose efforts to impeach four sitting Iowa Supreme Court justices and he did not plan to schedule a floor debate this session if impeachment resolutions introduced by five House Republicans advance. “While I agree with much of the reasoning behind the impeachment resolutions, I disagree with this remedy... I do not expect it to be debated on the floor of the House and, if it is, I will vote no. House Republicans remain focused on reducing government spending and lowering taxes for Iowa families and small businesses...”

House Democratic Leader Kevin McCarthy, D-Des Moines, had challenged Paulsen and House Majority Leader Linda Upmeyer, R-Garner, to publicly condemn the “outrageous, extremist” impeachment resolutions or to allow a full-blown impeachment proceeding in which he said his 40-member minority would “use every available procedural tool to shut down the Iowa House and defeat this right-wing effort.”
76 -- British actor Trevor Bannister when he passed away last week from a heart attack.  Bannister is best known - by me at least -- for playing the role of Mr. Lucas in the 1970's britcom Are You Being Served?.  I identified that show as one of "my firsts" back in October.  More specifically, it was my "First Favorite British Sitcom".  Mr. Lucas was a bit of a lech who was always chasing after the ladies -- when he wasn't trying to pull one over on his shift supervisor.  I really didn't watch any of the other shows that he's appeared in outside of never-ending Last of the Summer Wine, but Bannister always came off as a likeable man.  He's survived by his wife and sons.

156 -- The latest issue of Marvel Comics' Thunderbolts comic book.  It originally started out as a team of super-villains posing as heroes and plotting all sorts of calamities.  Eventually, several of the original Thunderbolts switched to the side of the angels and now work with the government to help other big bads go good.  In the current issue, Songbird is interviewing several new Thunderbolt recruits and I'm extremely excited to see Mister Hyde being recruited, though I'm not sure if he'll be chosen for the team after grabbing Songbird like he is.  I've written before that I love lycanthropes.  Give me a werewolf anyday of the team over vampires.  And what's a Hyde character if not a unique type of lycanthrope.  I'm really gonna love this title if Mister Hyde makes the cut.  I just hope he stays on the team longer that Hyperion.

350+ -- Number of negative e-mails received by University of Iowa professor Ellen Lewin after she responded to a campus-wide College Republican group e-mail with the message "F**K YOU, REPUBLICANS".  At first I assumed that she responded to a pretty nasty message, like the time a conservative UI group (not sure if it was the College Republicans so I won't tag this onto them) advertised a "Gerbil Quilt" (AKA a nasty parody of the AIDS Memory Quilt Project).  Then I saw that student group's e-mail and didn't understand where her response came from.  Regardless, it was definitely one of those moments when Professor Lewin should have pressed "delete" instead of "send".

In related news, Snarky Hawk reports that Professor Lewin is now required to wear a parental advisory "explicit language" label through at least the next three semesters.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Florida Family Association Launches Boycott of "Degrassi" Over Trans Character

I learned tonight that the Florida Family Association has launched a consumer boycott of MTV and their Teen Nick channel (AKA "The N") over the airing of the teen drama "Degrassi" and its recent inclusion of a F2M trans character and his romantic relationship with one of the female characters:
It is very concerning that your company would knowingly advertise during a television show that condones and promotes transgender lifestyles to an audience that is almost exclusively watched by young teens and children. You would think by the number of episodes that MTV devotes to including the relationship between a female to male transgender high school student and a bi-sexual lesbian student that such relationships are a common occurrence in America’s high schools. The odds of this bizarre relationship occurring in high schools are extremely rare. Yet, MTV feeds this salacious and irresponsible propaganda to an audience made up of almost exclusively young teens and children as if it were common place. MTV airs a free promo for PFLAG on DeGrassi which directs kids to an organization that will encourage our youth to embrace a different sexual identity that may stay with them for life. Will your company continue to advertise on this irresponsible show?
Now I could point out that Degrassi is set in Toronto so it's not portraying any occurrences within America's high schools, common or not.  Then again, I get their point.  There aren't a lot of trans teens, much less trans teens who get lucky enough to enter into any type of intimate relationships.  Which isn't to say that it doesn't happen and which also isn't to say that it couldn't happen at that particular school. 

Anyway, I was a big Degrassi fan going back to the late 80s.  I loved Degrassi Junior High and Degrassi High.  I eventually caught up with The Kids from Degrassi Street and Degrassi High School's Out finale special.  I was super-psyched when I learned roughly a decade ago that The N was going to roll out a new series called Degrassi: The Next Generation.  It featured a new cast of junior high Canadian kids along with several returning Degrassi alums.  That said, as the show moved on and the original kids graduated, got killed, and/or went into comas, I gradually fell away from the program and lost track of the newest generation of Degrassi kids, even as the program dropped the "The Next Generation" from its title.  Now I mainly catch up with the show when I happen to be channel-surfing, but it still holds a special spot in my heart.

Degrassi's never been one to hide from controversy.  I still remember the first season of Degrassi High when Erica got pregnant and ended up choosing to terminate her pregnancy.  Several PBS stations refused to air that two-part episode, which was a shame.  It was hardly a situation of "girl gets pregnant and valiantly exercises her right to choose".  It was a season-long story arc where we saw Erica (and her sister) struggle with the after-effects of that choice and it certainly wasn't painless.

And while Degrassi's Adam might be the show's first trans teen, he's hardly the franchise's first G, L, or B character.  Caitlin experienced a same-sex crush on Ms. Avery during the first season of Degrassi Junior High and Snake's older brother got cut off from his family when he came out.  Later on Degrassi: TNG, Ashley learned that the real reason her parents divorced was because her dad was a gay man -- he eventually got married to his new husband later on in the show.  It was around that time that we learned that Paige had an older gay brother.  He eventually dated her best friend Marco.  Heck, Paige found herself in a same-sex relationship of her own with Alex.  I know that there was another gay teen (a football player), but I was only watching the show peripherally by that point.

All that's to say, I'm not quite sure why the Florida Family Association is bothering with a boycott now.  The current season ends tomorrow and the controversy has been around long before this current storyline.

Nero at Daycare -- 04/21/11

Nero was ready to run today.  Good thing that it was a doggie daycare day.  Check it out:

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

RIP Elisabeth Sladen (1948-2011)

I'm totally in shock.  I got home from work this afternoon and learned that one of my favorite British actresses just passed away.  Elisabeth Sladen, most famous for her role as Sarah Jane Smith on The Sarah Jane Adventures and Doctor Who, was ill from cancer.  She is survived by her husband Brian Miller and her daughter Sadie:
It is with much sadness that we can announce Elisabeth Sladen, the much-loved actress best known for her role as Sarah Jane Smith in Doctor Who and CBBC's The Sarah Jane Adventures, passed away this morning. (source)
I've written before that Sladen was one of Doctor Who's all-time best companions.  Sarah Jane Smith was reintroduced to the new Doctor Who series in the mid-00s amidst a collection of equally interesting 21st century Who companions.  She was much different than most of the Doctor's earlier companions.  She was witty and smart and intelligent and she didn't melt into a puddle of screams whenever the Daleks or the Yeti showed up.  Sarah Jane's reintroduction to the Doctor Who mythos was so successful that she was finally able to launch a successful spin-off series (an earlier unsuccessful spin-off was attempted in the early 80s).  This is what I wrote about The Sarah Jane Adventures nearly one year ago today:
Sarah Jane Adventures tells the story of another fan-favorite Doctor Who companion from the 70s and 80s, Sarah Jane Smith, as she investigates alien activity and saves the planet with the assistance of her teenage son and his friends. Sarah Jane is also helped by her sentient computer, Mister Smith, and the various gadgets that she's acquired over the past 30 years.

Sarah Jane Adventures is essentially a children's sci-fi show, which makes it a nice counter-balance to Doctor Who's adult-themed spin-off, Torchwood. More importantly, it's a good children's sci-fi show. It addresses real life issues like adoption, drug use, and deadbeat dads without being any sense of preachiness, while maintaining a steady quota of smart alien action. It doesn't hurt that BBC brought back one of Doctor Who's most popular and consistently well-written companions to head up this program.
Elisabeth Sladen was 63.  She will be greatly missed.

Nero at Daycare -- 04/19/11

Nero had a fun, if not wet, afternoon at daycare today.  Our damp poodle is currently crashed on my bed.  Check it out:

Monday, April 18, 2011

Zombies Attack Dancers; Take Over Iowa City Prom

I wrote last week about a zombie attack that was repulsed after a motorist slammed into one of the undead and managed to scare away the lumbering hordes.  Shockingly, there were rumors of a planned "Zombie Prom" this past Saturday at the University of Iowa's IMU.  Most Iowa City residents were offended that anyone would plan any event that welcomed the undead to our community.  We hoped that the premature ending to the "Humans vs. Zombies" battle would remind the zombies that they are definitely not welcome in our community and that any "zombie prom" would get called off.

Zombies consume and infect UI dancers.
Truthfully, Saturday night went by and then Sunday passed without comment and I was fairly positive that the so-called "zombie prom" was successfully aborted.  Unfortunately, the Iowa City Press-Citizen printed actual photographic evidence that the zombies attacked a local dance, infected those unfortunate college students who had the misfortune of being there, and then "strive (strove? strived?) to find love".  Yes, it's as disgusting as it sounds.

 Anyway, I might be off on my timeline, but it appears that the undead ghouls attacked the dancers and then began dancing to music.  I haven't yet figured out if the band was infected, though some of the Press-Citizen pics definitely indicate that at least some of the musicians were resurrected into unliving monsters.

Dancing Zombies
 To be honest, I have no idea what became of those poor infected souls after their Saturday transformations.  I was at the IMU yesterday evening and it was clearly not overrun by the undead so they were either wiped out by UI Public Safety or they ended up shambling off to some dank crypt to plot their next assault on humanity.  I have no idea where or when the zombies will next appear.  Their recent activities don't exactly match their regular patterns of behavior.  It used to be that they'd swarm on a community and eat brains.  Now they're organizing their own perverted proms.  They're infecting fast food restaurants.  They're protesting Tea Party legislators.  They're dancing to Michael Jackson's song "Thriller" during Mardi Gras.  It makes no sense and we really need to figure them out before they begin their next assault on humanity.

Ms. Lion at the Emergency Room -- (Late) 04/17/11

Ms. Lion hiding under a chair at the Emergency Room.
We knew something was up as soon as we got home from last night's Gen Silent event.  Ms. Lion was making these weird choking coughs.  And then she'd be fine.  I took her collar off to make sure she wasn't feeling constricted.  I tried getting her to drink some water.  She ended up eating her supper okay and went for a quick walk without a problem.  And then she started coughing again.  And then she would relax for 15-20 minutes and then she start coughing and gagging again.

At 11:30 PM, I decided to call the emergency vet's office to get their input and they suggested that we stop in.  Hence, my first visit ever to Animal ER.  Animal ER is much different than People ER.  Animal ER is open and spacious.  Other patients don't pop into your room asking to score some drugs like they do sometimes in People ER.

Anyway, they took Ms. Lion's information and of course she wasn't too tense to cough or gag or choke.  I hate it when I get spooked into running to the doctor's office for something and it goes away before you get a chance for the doctor to validate your concerns.  Fortunately, Ms. Lion finally started making those sharp little coughs while the vet was present so I ended up not feeling so stupid.

They're not quite sure what she has.  Whatever it is, it's fresh.  They think it might be the beginning of a Kennel Cough infection.  It's also possible that there's something wrong with her trachea.  They're starting with the simpler treatment with plans to ramping things up later if the need arises.  So Ms. Lion's now taking antibiotics for the week as well as a very mild PRN cough suppressant.  If it keeps up, she might need to do some steroids.  It's possible that they'll recommend some sort of trache-scope and make further recommendations from there.  So I'm hoping for the Kennel Cough and trying to decide how far to proceed with the other treatments.

Needless to say, I'm running on fumes today.  More later.

Thoughts on "Gen Silent"

Mark and I watched a documentary yesterday evening titled "Gen Silent" at the IMU's Bijou Cinema here in Iowa City.  It was followed by a question-and-answer session with the film's creator, Stu Maddux.  I wrote about this event earlier this weekGen Silent checked in with a diverse assortment of elderly GLBT folks: an aging lesbian couple, a widowed gay male, an aging gay couple -- one who's slowly slipping away because of advance dementia, and a terminally ill MTF transsexual.  They all grew up during a time in American history where they could be disowned by family for coming out.  They could be involuntarily committed to mental hospitals if they came out.  They could be beaten and arrested by the police if they came out.  They could be fired for coming out.  Now this same population is being forced by age and illness to place their lives and their trust into the same types of institutions that attempted to beat them down decades earlier.  They find themselves going back into the closet and dying alone as opposed to coming out to medical and nursing home staff, as well as in-home case managers and homemakers, who don't respect their unique histories or their identities.

Let's take a moment to view the film's trailer:

Here are some of my take-aways:

1. Mark and I frequently joke with D' that he'll be changing our diapers, refilling our meds, and driving us back and forth to the doctors in 10-20 years.  I say that we joke, but it's really not one.  Mark and I are extremely fortunate.  We have children in our lives who will hopefully look out for us as we grow older.  The reality is that something like 80% of elderly people rely on informal family supports to care for them during their final years.  That could be spouses, adult children, siblings, etc.  Unfortunately, many aging GLBT people don't have family to look after them.  They don't have children and their families are no longer in their lives.  I think the statistic cited tonight was that roughly one-third of aging GLBT individuals have someone in their lives to watch out for them and to attend to their needs.  More shocking was a specific Australian study that stated that 60% of gay people polled would commit suicide in order to avoid nursing home care.

2. It was interesting to hear the advocates from the GLBT aging visibility program talk about how the local nursing homes and assisted living care provider agencies would tell them that they don't have a problem with how they treat aging GLBT patients because they don't have any.  I believe that was pretty much the same response that the Johnson County Living Community Visibility Action Team received when they polled many local nursing home providers.  I know that's not the case.  I know of several older folks locally who've received these types of services.  I have no clue if they closeted themselves or if the service providers just assumed that they were heterosexual.  But this population definitely exists and we need to have access to our spouses and partners during our final days just as much as anyone else.

3. It was also startling to hear the acknowledgement by the one nursing home director that many of his staff -- both among the management and among the direct care staff -- were uncomfortable working with GLBT patients.  This also includes staff who are comfortable with the concept of GLBT patients, but who cringe if exposed to affection between aging GLBT partners.  We're talking about at least half of the staff working with these patients.  There's a big part of me who just wants to shake their care providers, tell them to "suck it up", and demand that they offer their patients a basic amount of common dignity during their final days.

Stu Maddux posing with members of the JCLC Visibility
Action Team (including Husband Mark-far right).

 4. Finally, Stu Maddux was a really nice guy.  I chatted with him briefly tonight and thanked him for coming to speak with us.  I even got to throw out the whole "I always tell D'Angelo that he's going to have to change my diapers someday" quip at him, which prompted a chuckle.  But it was very clear that he was very passionate about his work and about intergenerational relationship-building within the GLBT community.  These people aren't film subjects to him.  They have become important people in his lives.  He attended the funeral of at least one of the film's documentaries and maintains ties to others within the group. 

He brought up an extremely important point following the film: there are thousands of oral histories out there that today's young adult and middle age GLBT people aren't very good at seeking out.  Those queer folks in their 60s, 70s, and 80s laid the groundwork for what amounts to our GLBT freedoms of today.  We're fighting over the legal right to marry and adopt now.  They were fighting over the ability to maintain careers, stay out of the institutions, and share a simple drink in a bar back then.  It's night and day and we owe the GLBT crusaders of yesterday a huge debt of gratitude.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

NOM Rhode Island Director: "Gay Marriages Turn Kids into Little Teacup Dogs"

I don't know why I let this kind of thing bug me.  NOM Rhode Island's executive director, Chris Plante, recently participated in a video titled "NOM-inated" where he talks about NOM Rhode Island and why they are fighting to prevent marriage equality from becoming a reality in that state.  Fast forward to the 4:50 mark.  Plante acknowledges that he'll probably get some grief for this sentiment and then immediately moves forward with that smarmy smile of his and asserts that gay couples who adopt are looking for basic accessories when they go through the adoption process.  "(Gays marrying) turns children into little teacup dogs.  It's an accessory to put in my purse."  You can watch him say this immediately below:

Once again, I don't know why I let him and others like him bother me.  He can believe what he wants.  I know the reality of becoming an adoptive parent.  We love our kids.  They are not accessories, nor do we treat them as such.  Mark and I did not become parents on a whim.  I know of no gay or lesbian couple who has done this.  By the nature of how our families come into being (foster parenting, adoption, artificial insemination, surrogacy, etc.), becoming a gay parent is a thoughtful, planned out process.  Mark and I parented our boys for years before completing the process for finalizing our parental role with our sons.  We could've decided that it was inconvenient and sent them on to some other home if we were looking for basic accessories.  We could've had our adoption petition denied if there were any doubts by those around us that our familial relationship is anything but sincere.

But NOM has money to raise and uninformed voters to influence.  NOM needs to convince social conservatives that gay parents don't really love our kids.  They need to tell people that we tuck our kids away whenever they are inconvenient.  They need people to believe that our kids get tucked away in a purse whenever homework needs to be done or whenever our kids start throwing tantrums.  They need to insult and invalidate our families while claiming that our collective goal is to destroy their marriages.  That's their goal and that's their strategy.

The simple truth is that gay parents love our kids just as much as any heterosexual parent.  Every day of our lives is centered on our kids.  We work to financially support our kids.  We push our kids to excel at school.  We spend our free time taking our kids to their sports and their clubs.  We go to movies that our kids enjoy.  We create rules and enforce those rules in order to protect our kids and to help them learn how to make good decisions later on in life. 

Our kids are not fads.  We love our kids.  We live our lives for our kids.  NOM needs to stop it with the lies.  Enough.

My Top Five "Star Trek" Underdogs

I've been writing quite a bit in recently weeks about TrekFest 2011 and whether or not there's enough money to keep it going.  All this talk about Star Trek has gotten me thinking about one of my favorite science fiction franchises.  I've been a fan of all things Trekkie ever since I stumbled across the pilot episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation.  Since then, I've caught up on the original series and movies and I've seen most of the animated episodes.  I absolutely fell in love with Deep Space Nine.  And to a lesser extent, I've enjoyed Voyager and Enterprise

I will digress and add that I've found that I really enjoy Voyager much more when watching it in reruns.  I'm not quite sure why.  Also, my main problem with Enterprise was the concept of a prequel series just never did it for me.  I'd much preferred it if they'd shot into the future (like of like Andromeda, which I understand conceptually was a distant dystopian future vision of Star Trek originally).  There was a lot that I liked about Enterprise -- though its final episode was kind of a slap in the face (it featured Will Riker and Deanna Troi from TNG as they played around on the Holodeck). 

There have been many characters, races, and storylines played out on Star Trek and its assorted spin-offs over the decades.  Unfortunately, there are some characters and races that were never, IMHO, fully explored.  Either the writers forgot about them or the actor decided to leave the show or the focus groups didn't quite like them.  This Top 5 list is dedicated to these forgotten underdogs:

5. Bajor: Star Trek: Deep Space Nine was around for seven years.  There were many story arcs during that time, but the major purpose for the show was the rebuilding of Bajor following several decades of Cardassian exploitation and the guidance of Bajor towards Federation membership.  DS9 eventually ended, but we never did hear if Bajor became a Federation member planet.  Did it eventually happen?  I assume so, but I'll never know for certain.

4. M'Ress: Lieutenant M'Ress was the communication officer on Kirk's Enterprise during several episodes of the animated series.  She was a bipedal cat-woman who purred a lot when she spoke.  Like many of the old Enterprise crew members, M'Ress was usually a second fiddle to Kirk, Spock, Scotty, and Bones, but I really liked her.  I totally understand why she and others like her haven't been seen in any of the subsequent Star Trek spin-offs.  However, it's totally possible with today's special effects technology that M'Ress could totally appear in the current re-imaged Star Trek series.  That would be totally cool.

3. Gary Seven (along with his companions Roberta Lincoln and Isis): Gary Seven was an advanced human agent who was sent to Earth in 1968 to protect humanity from itself during its dawning nuclear age.  He was joined by his secretary Roberta and his shape-changing cat Isis.  He ran into Kirk and Spock during his first Earth mission.  Gary Seven was originally intended to star in what would've been Star Trek's first spin-off series: Assignment: Earth.  Unfortunately, the spin-off never happened and Gary Seven was never heard from again.

2. Marla Gilmore, Noah Lessing, and/or any of the five surviving members of the USS Equinox: During its seven-year journey home from the Delta Quadrant, the Voyager ran across a second Federation starship called Equinox.  It was a smaller ship with a smaller crew and was far less equipped to survive on its own within the Delta Quadrant.  Janeway eventually learned -- to her horror -- that Equinox's crew managed to get as far as it did by trapping these little energy creatures and sucking them dry.  The two ships ended up fighting each other and Equinox and most of its crew were destroyed by the energy creatures.  However, five Equinox crew members were transplanted to Voyager before their ship was destroyed.  Their officer ranks were taken away and they were given highly supervised grunt jobs with limited privileges.  And we never heard from any of them again.  What happened to them?  Did they integrate at all with the Voyager crew?  Did they make amends?  Did they burn bridges?  There were many lost opportunities here.

1. Kes: Kes was a fairly unique Delta Quadrant native who joined the crew of Voyager during the first three years of its mission home.  She was unique in that her race has a lifespan of roughly seven years.  She was bright and curious and compassionate.  She was the first in the crew to recognize the EMH Doctor's humanity.  She became a field medic and established the starship's airponics bay.  And she began developing some pretty powerful telepathic and telekinetic abilities.  Unfortunately, her character was written off the show when the new Borg character, Seven of Nine, was introduced to the series.  She reappeared a couple years later shortly before her death.  Personally, I wish they had kept Kes and gotten rid of one of the other crew members like Neelix.  At the very least, I wish they would have kept her on the ship during her last days instead of sending her away.  But that's just me...

Who/what would you add to this list?

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Motorist Repels Zombie; IC Humans v. Zombies Battle Prematurely Halted

Zombie Horde Attempting to Overwhelm Driver
I reported a couple days ago that a skirmish between humanity and zombies has erupted this week here in Iowa City.  People are running this way and that.  Zombies are chasing people this way and that.  Zombies are infecting people with their undead nature.  Eventually humanity is swallowed up (literally) and replaced by a planet full of zombies.  It's pretty nasty. 

This week's latest attack was going pretty much according to script when the unexpected occurred: a motorist took out a zombie:
“Due to an unfortunate incident today, Humans vs. Zombies will be discontinued for the week,” read a posting on (a) Facebook page...

“There was a traffic accident (off campus), so the Iowa City Police Department is handling it,” UI spokesman Tom Moore said.

A police activity log shows that police are investigating a car-versus-pedestrian incident that occurred about 1:15 p.m. Tuesday at Jefferson and Clinton streets. This is about the same time as the UI accident, so it appears to be the same, Iowa City police Sgt. Denise Brotherton said, but she could not confirm it and the officers who responded were not available on Wednesday. “If it would have been significant, a serious medical emergency, I would assume I would have been told something,” said Brotherton, who is the department’s public information officer.

UI does not know whether the participant was injured, Moore said. Moore said the university is not and does not plan to investigate the incident, and is not concerned about “Humans versus Zombies” being held as a campus activity.
It's obvious that both the police and the University of Iowa are downplaying the seriousness of this incident.  Either that or they believe, as all proud defenders of humanity against the undead, that the loss of zombie unlife isn't "significant" nor is it worth investigating.  Regardless, this blatant vehicular attack against these ghoulish invaders obviously had the intended effect: the zombies turned back and ran back to hide in whatever crypt they normally hide out in.

Unfortunately, they may not be gone from Iowa City for long.  The zombies -- so sure of their victory over humanity -- planned a "Zombie Prom" this coming weekend at the IMU Ballroom to celebrate their domination of mankind.  Mankind fought back and won.  It's not yet clear whether or not the zombies are up to dancing anymore.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Queer and Gray

It is often difficult for young gays, lesbians, and other sexual minorities to navigate the heterosexual world.  Ever wonder how much more difficult that could be for elderly members of the queer community?  Many of them grew up in a culture where their identities were best to kept secret.  They could be jailed, institutionalized, fired, disowned, etc... if they revealed their identities.  Now these seniors are getting older and may require care in a nursing home or residential community.  Many of these settings seem to be unaware of the sexual identities of their queer residents and uncomfortable with those residents who are out of the closet...

The Johnson County Living Community (JCLC) Visibility Action Team is presenting a free movie, Gen Silent, on this subject this Sunday, April 17th, at 7:00 PM at the Bijou Cinema in the University of Iowa's Iowa Memorial Union.

The director of the film, Stu Maddux, will also be present to answer questions from audience members after the film.

(NOTE: The preceeding article was written by Husband Mark, who is a member of the JCLC Visibility Action Team and one of the sponsors of this important event.  You can read more about the showing of Gen Silent at this webpage and, of course, at Mr. Maddux's own blog.)

Nero at Daycare -- 04/12/11

Nero was overdue for a visit to Lucky Pawz today.  I tried wearing him out yesterday, but it wasn't enough for this crazy poodle.  Check it out:

On the Road Again... with Nero!

I keep looking at this picture and I can't figure out what Nero's doing to
that other dog -- climbing on his back for a treat, I guess...


Monday, April 11, 2011

Zombie Burgers Infect Des Moines, IA

You know those movies where somebody sets up something so stupid and it seems so obvious how short-sighted that person is being (like genetically enhancing the brains of sharks in an effort to cure dementia or like taunting the mentally ill psychic girl)?  This is one such story.  Unfortunately, this is real life and not a movie...

I learned this week about a restaurateur who's in the process of setting up a ghoul-themed fast-food shop named "Zombie Burger".  This isn't a scary movie.  This isn't camp.  This is real life.  It's coming in August 2011 and it's going to be based in Des Moines, Iowa:
Chef George Formaro has finally found a way to combine two of his passions in life: horror movies and hamburgers. Formaro and his partners have signed a lease for the corner retail space in the e300 building at East 4th & Grand. Zombie Burger + Drink Lab will open in August, 2011 serving lunch, dinner and late-night foods seven days a week.

Why Zombie Burger?! “Glee Burger didn’t sound cool to me,” jokes Chef George Formaro. “We have serious restaurants. It’s time to be playful.” The talented entrepreneur has been a fan of horror movies his whole life. “If I wasn’t a chef, I’d be a horror movie makeup artist,” says Formaro. “These films have been my form of relaxation for years,” he adds.
Zombie Zone News reports:
“We went back and forth on the zombie/horror aspect, but Zombie Burger just sounded like a cool place,” Formaro said. “We’ll deliver on the food side, but not as much on the visuals of zombies. More the feel of a zombie movie. Clearly you’re not going to see things that would suppress your appetite. That doesn’t work.”
I don't even know how to adequately respond to this.  Does anyone else remember the plot of Zombieland?  Wasn't that movie's zombie apocalypse spawned by a mutated strain of mad cow disease???  I just can't help but fear that Zombieland was some sort of prophetic vision of the USA.  It's possible that I'm wrong, but you never know.

One top of that, I also learned that there's another zombie vs. humanity guerrilla fight happening here in Iowa City.  I've just heard whispers about how things are working out for the living -- certainly nothing's being reported in the press --, but it's never a good sign when the undead come out in search of fresh flesh and brains so soon after their last invasion

Speaking of their last invasion of Iowa City, I came across an eyewitness account of last November's attack.  It's not for the faint at heart:
I urge you not to take this zombie threat lightly. Earlier this school year, I was walking back to the Levitt Center from downtown when I heard a terrifying scream. I looked up to see a group of moaning zombies chasing students around an open field by the UI Theatre Building. I guess it makes sense that a university would be a hotbed for zombies, considering all the bright brains on campus!
Sometimes I feel like the lone voice speaking out against this undead menace.  Humanity needs to take the zombie threat seriously before it's way too late to do anything.

Maybe TrekFest 2011 Isn't Safe After All...

I feel like I'm playing with a TrekFest 2011 yoyo these days.  First I learned that TrekFest wasn't going to happen this summer because they needed to raise $10,000 by the end of April.  Then I learned the Riverside Casino was offering a $3,000 matching grant and that other fund-raising efforts were being initiated.  Then I learned that Mindbridge Foundation was donating an additional $5,000 to the cause.  Then the Gazette announced that TrekFest was saved.

Except, maybe not quite yet:
TrekFest organizers said they are “extremely close” to collecting enough funds to make the event a reality this year. “We’re really close,” said Ken McCracken, president of the Riverside Area Community Club, which puts on the annual event...

McCracken said RACC has received “a lot of promises,” but they have to wait for checks to clear and the money to come through before they can officially say TrekFest is a go. “I’d say we’re at least 75 percent there,” he said.

McCracken said RACC leadership will announce their decision on TrekFest on April 21.
If I were a betting man, I'd say that TrekFest is a go.  Then again, I play Powerball often and I almost never win anything, so there you go.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

By the Numbers

4.7 -- Iowa City's unemployment rate, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.  That indicates that Iowa City has one of the lowest jobless rates in the nation.

5 -- The number of years since Iowa City's Easter Tornado.  It was April 13, 2006.  I remember that it was a Thursday and we were all gathered at my church for the annual Maundy Thursday worship service.  The sirens started in the middle of service.  Not quite knowing what to do, we went on for a little while before we finally decided to take cover.  Keep in mind that it's almost impossible to find a window-less room at Faith United Church of Christ.  Most everyone crammed into the interior bathroom.  The boys and I hung out in the children's bathroom and listened to the radio.  Most of the guys were outside in the rain watching funnel clouds.  I probably would've been out with them except I had to keep 5-year-old D'Angelo from freaking out.  Our church lucked out, but downtown St. Patrick's Catholic Church got smacked down hard by the storm.  Check out the link above to see nearly 200 pics of storm damage.  It's pretty intense.

We eventually decided to head home.  It's hard to drive home after a tornado.  The power's gone and it's pitch black and you never know if the road you're on is clear or blocked.  We eventually got home and found pretty much everything safe except for the missing cable.  We were pretty lucky.  The tornado left a trail of destruction that stopped within a quarter mile of our home.

25 -- Percentage of the vote that openly gay GOP Presidential candidate Fred Karger got during New Hampshire's GOP Presidential Primary Straw Poll earlier this week, allowing him to beat out everyone from Romney to Trump to Palin to Pawlenty.

9 Million -- Apparently the number of GLBT Americans out there.  Box Turtle Bulletin has broken down the methodology that led to that number and is contesting that number, as are many others.

Friday, April 8, 2011

NOM Bus Tour Organizer/Blogger Now Supports Both Gay and Str8 Marriages

Last summer, the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) drove across the country and speaking out against married gay people and our families.  The guy who originally came up with the idea and ended up driving the NOM bus all over the place is a guy named Louis Marinelli.  In addition to driving the NOM folks, Marinelli maintained an often incendiary blog posts like the one where he accused anti-NOM protesters of intimidating NOM supporters with their "vicious" dogs or where he mocked a gay couple and their "baby" (yes, he used quotes) or where he disrespected a pair of lesbian wives here in Iowa.

I always wonder if our efforts at fighting for our families has any positive effect.  Apparently, this summer it did.  Louis Marinelli is now a marriage equality supporter and directly credits counter-protesters in Atlanta, GA, and a gay blogger named RJ for helping him to work through this issue:
(I)t was in Atlanta that I can remember that I questioned what I was doing for the first time. The NOM showing in the heart of the Bible-belt was dismal and the hundreds of counter-protesters who showed up were nothing short of inspiring.  Even though I had been confronted by the counter-protesters throughout the marriage tour, the lesbian and gay people whom I made a profession out of opposing became real people for me almost instantly. For the first time I had empathy for them and remember asking myself what I was doing.

If my transition from opponent to supporter of same-sex civil marriage was a timeline, Atlanta would be indicated by the first point on the line. The next point on that timeline would be two months later.

After the marriage tour wrapped up and everyone went their separate ways, I transformed my marriage tour “Inside Look” blog to a more general blog about protecting marriage and opposing the homosexual agenda... One article I wrote, towards the end of October, 2010 caught the attention of a blogger by the name of RJ, who writes on the blog AmIWorking. He responded to my article about the homosexual agenda with an article addressed personally to me regarding marriage equality. In short, his article had the miraculous effect of instantly putting things into prospective for me.

At that point, between what I had witnessed on the marriage tour and RJ’s post about marriage equality, I really came to understand that gays and lesbians were just real people who wanted to live real lives and be treated equally as opposed to, for example, wanting to destroy American culture. No, they didn’t want to destroy American culture, they wanted to openly particulate in it. I was well on my way to becoming a supporter of civil marriage equality. You can read my statement retracting the statements I made about gays and lesbians here.
Marinelli still has objections to homosexuality and doesn't think it's something to aspire towards.  And he supports religious communities who decline to honor our families or to officiate at our weddings.  And that's okay.  The important difference is that Marinelli now recognizes the difference between civil marriage rights and responsibilities and holy marital rites.  A Christian church, for example, can refuse to recognize gay marriages as holy or sacramental and maintain their religious liberties in a society that still protects the civil marriage rights and responsibilities of gay and lesbian married couples.

I'm happy that Marinelli is now stepping up for gay families even as I cringe over his previous nasty comments about us.  Still, it's a major step and forgiveness is good for the soul, so I'm willing to let bygones be bygones and accept Marinelli where he's at now.  If nothing else, it's a good reminder that gay and lesbians need to continue speaking out about our families firmly, cordially, and unapologetically.  We're changing hearts and minds, even if it doesn't seem like it at the time.